For those of you that operate your forklifts outdoors, you know how harsh the winter weather can become. It’s almost guaranteed the snow will fly and it will be cold. A common question we typically get asked is, “what kind of winter tire would be best for my forklift?”
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but just like you found out Santa wasn’t real, we now also have to tell you that there really is no such thing as winter forklift tires!
If this comes as a shock to you, you are probably not alone. What most people don’t understand is that the automotive tire world and the forklift tire world are completely different in this regard. Winter tires on a car may have variable differences in tread depth, patterns and the rubber, whereas a forklift tire doesn’t provide these various options. With all of this being said, the best winter tires are – new tires!
Depending on your forklift application, choosing between new pneumatic tires or new cushion tires comes down to one thing – whether or not you are going to be driving the forklift out in the snow. If the fork truck is going outside for any reason, chances are a pneumatic tire is right for you. Not only is the pneumatic tire the most popular choice for handling the winter weather, it can be longer lasting than its counterpart - the cushion tire.
PNEUMATIC FORKLIFT TIRES
There are two main pneumatic tire types; standard and solid. Standard pneumatic tires, similar to a tractor or lawn mower, have a sense of “flow” because of the compressed air used to fill the tire. Unlike the solid pneumatic tire, they have slightly larger treads, can handle patches of loose snow easier, and offer a more comfortable ride.
In comparison, solid pneumatic tires are much stiffer. Because they are not filled with compressed air, they may not have as much cushion which generates a bumpier ride. However, if there are any chances of debris being hidden by snow on your terrain, you are better off with a solid pneumatic tire as there is less risk of puncturing the tire than a standard pneumatic tire. Keep this in mind as you are hunting for the best tire that can handle your cold weather needs.
OPERATING ON ICE AND SNOW
There is no stand-alone tire that will perform on ice or deeply compacted snow. Compact snow can act exactly like ice if an operator rides over it. Driving a forklift through an ice-like surface could be a potential safety hazard, so make sure to notify all operators to look out for potential ice patches that could be dangerous to operate on and avoid them if possible.
FORKLIFT TIRE CHAINS
For frequent trips over ice and snow, you should consider tire chains. Ideal for slippery conditions, tire chains help you gain traction when the snow and ice make it dangerous to operate. They're available for standard pneumatic and solid pneumatic tires. Make sure you don't use tire chains on dry, flat surfaces. They can easily damage your tires and the ground.
STUDS FOR FORKLIFT TIRES
Tire studs are an alternative to tire chains if you're using solid pneumatic tires. They're screwed into the tire tread to improve traction in icy conditions. You can remove the studs without damaging the tire and re-use them later.
We recommend using tire studs with a solid carbide tip since they're stronger and more durable.
The last thing to keep in mind as you go through the winter season is how de-icing can affect your forklifts tires. A one hundred percent salt mixture spread on the ice will deteriorate the metal components in your forklift faster than a fifty percent sand and fifty percent salt mixture. For this reason, it may be better to stick with the sand and salt regimen than other kinds of de-icing practices.
No matter what tire you end up using to handle the winter season, be sure it is the right tire that suits your forklifts needs by checking your specific manufacturer’s make and model tire requirements.
For more insight on forklift tires, read our comprehensive forklift tire guide and get more out of your tires.
Plus, read more on preparing your forklift for winter weather.